Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Obama or bust. So, it's bust then!

Monday 24th

The omens were not good.

The security screening line I was put in at the airport was the one full of trainees. So, when my hand luggage emerged on the belt from the x-ray scanner everything was taken out, searched, swabbed and re-scanned.

When we were standing in line waiting to go up the steps for the flight to Dublin. The passengers that had just come from Dublin were getting off.

There was a lot of relieved laughter, a few faces that could have done with a bit of blusher to restore the colour to their cheeks and one young guy who was actually green and needing a bit of a hand to get into the terminal.

Also, even just sitting on the tarmac the plane was rocking from side to side as the wings flapped enough to signal its impatience waiting to take off.

The actual take off was not too bad. The veering across the runway did not last for long before the packed plane was bouncing into the sky swiftly catching up and then overtaking the fast moving clouds.

The main part of the flight in the blue above the white was fine and smooth.

On the approach to Dublin the playful shrieks and giggles that started as the bouncing plane began to descend turned into silent prayers as we got closer to the ground and the aircraft leapt and bucked like a frisky stallion.

The pilot was working hard keeping us level, on the centre line and at the right height.

There did not seem to be that much runway left when the flying beast stopped flying and thudded heavily onto the Dublin tarmac.

Simultaneously a lot of passengers let out a rousing cheer and the pilot hit the reverse thrust and brakes.

This time I almost joined in with the applause. I hope Ryanair don’t retrospectively want to charge extra for the thrill ride of a life time.

It was of no great surprise that the wind was so bad not that far away in Scotland, the Forth Road Bridge was closed to all traffic and the airport we had just left was also now closed.

As we taxied in to the terminal out of the rain swept window was Air Force 1 and its little brother Air Force 2.

Air Force 1 and 2.

My flight had been delayed by forty five minutes or so but, but that was nothing compared to the delay Daybreak's Chief Corespondent Richard Gaisford endured.

The wind was so strong that as well as making his flight late it was too dangerous to get the bags off.

By the time I met him in the arrivals hall the concert that we were due to report on was already in full swing.

We would do our best to get into town to get what we could.

Luck was now slightly on out side. Although the President’s speech had started when we got in the taxi to take us to town the driver had a TV in the car that we could watch it on.

Not only that he was keen to do what he could do to get us in as quickly as he could.

He drove the way we wanted him to but could not really ask.

Along with bending the rules on speeding a bit he was not averse to giving out advise to his fellow road users, like, “Will yi get out the way yi fookin’ ejit!”.

He got us as near to the event as was possible in a vehicle that was not big, black, with lots of flashing lights or had a crest of an eagle on it.

Before we got out the car President Obama’s speech was over.

What we wanted to do was to get to College Green where he had made the speech and chat to some of the people that had been there to hear it first hand.

The problem was that we were on the wrong side of the river.

Both the roads and walkways on the bridges that cross the Liffy were currently closed.

There was no way that any Garda was going to let a pair of dodgy looking characters like us get across, even if they had official accreditation, which we didn’t because we had not had time to go to Dublin Castle to pick it up.

We decided then to at least get a shot of the motorcade that was possibly going to go along the road where we were.

There was a bit of a crowd. It would not have been a good idea to try and play the media card and push to the front.

My best option was to get some height. There is a statue at the end of O’Connell Street that has an angel on it. So i climbed up it to get a better view of the cavalcade when it appeared.

I was using Richard’s small camera because money needed to be saved on excess baggage. ITN still had kit in Dublin that I would use for the live broadcasts in the morning.

Getting the shot of the cavalcade of cars.

The shot of the president’s car going past was at least our own material rather than pool footage that all the other broadcsters would have. We would be able to edit with if needed.

Along it camce after a short wait. I could not see the president but the way the sun shone through the car window it was a good view of Michelle.

It was only a few moments after the long line of cars had gone when the roads were opened.

We went to the scene of the speech and concert to talk to a few of the many many people that had crammed into the fairly small city centre area.

One of the Obama fans we interviewed.

I was a little frustrated using the small camera because I was not able to monitor the audio but it all appeared fine, except of course when a large hoist was manoeuvring in the background of one of the interviews.

TV crews doing their live broadcasts...

....including the Irish national television station RTE.

Then came the call that changed everything.

To avoid the ashcoud caused by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Grimsvotn that was currently spurting lava, gas and dust into the atmosphere, the president was going to leave Ireland in the evening, not next morning as planned.

Instantly there was no reason for us to be in Ireland in the morning.

There were a few more phone calls the result of which was that we would try to get out as well. Flights to and from Edinburgh tomorrow morning had already been cancelled.

Whilst these calls were being made Richard and I found ourselves in Temple Bar, the tourist area of Dublin. There was a small but excited crowd surrounding some flash cars that were trying to negotiate the narrow streets.

The interest was that Westlife and the bizarre duo Jedward, who had been performing at the concert nearby had just been ushered into the vehicles.

Westlife are in that one....

....Jedward are in the one in front. They need the extra headroom!

There was only one flight that we might just be able to make. It was t

he last flight out of Dublin to London’s Heathrow. The travel company was unable to get us booked on to it but we were told that there were seats available.

We had to go to the airport and try to get on.

Another one of Dublin’s lovely taxi drivers, a more refined lady than our dare devil of earlier got us there as fast as she could.

We walked into Terminal 2’s check in concourse and our hearts sank.

The place was like the preverbal ghost town. The only activity to be seen was a little black headed asian guy connecting up a huge floor cleaner to the mains.

The deserted check-in area.

Then right at the far end there were two lonely figures behind two check-in desks.

We told them that we wanted to get on the flight to Heathrow telling them also that we had bookings for tomorrow.

The two very nice ladies told us that the ticket desk was closed and that it might be difficult for them to do anything to help us.

They then had a a quick chat about what they could do to swap the bookings on to the flight.

Richard and I had no idea what they were talking about. They would have been as well talking in a mixture of Gaelic and Swahili for all we could understand of the codes and acronyms they were saying to each other as they simultaneously tapped away on their keyboards.

It did not take too long for them to come up with a couple of boarding cards and huge smiles. I immediately authorised the pair a huge pay rise and massive holiday bonus.

We dashed up to a very deserted security area where the staff recognised Richard and whisked us through the scanning procedure but not without telling us how much they did not like Daybreak, in fact they had stopped watching and missed GMTV so much. Oh dear!

The flight we were now booked on was delayed for a while so we had time to grab a bite to eat.

Away on the other side of the airport I could see the presidential aircraft waiting for their passengers.

Air Force 1 waiting for its passengers.

With its VIP load it jets into the grey windy Irish sky.

Air Force 2 taxis out to follow it.

Not long after President Obama, his wife Michelle and a lot of sun glass wearing secret service men left Ireland we were on our way.

Our flight arrived in London more than two hours late where we were confronted by another twenty minute delay when we sat waiting to get on to the parking stand.

The airport we had left was eerily quite and so was the one we arrived at.

Richard went off to get his car from the car park and I went in search of transport to my airport hotel. I ended up getting an expensive taxi to take me the relatively short journey to the Raddisson Edwardian.

It was getting close to 1 am by the time I checked in.

It had been a rather expensive, stressful but fruitless trip back to the Emerald Isle.

What would tomorrow bring with the winds pushing the ash cloud over Scotland.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Final broadcast on the Queen & Obama's forward party.

Friday 20th

Gary and I went to Dublin castle for our live broadcasts with Grainne.

Dublin Castle before the sun came up.

Getting to the live location was nice and easy. Traffic restrictions had been lifted, the crowd control barriers had gone, the security scanners had been removed, there were no Garda to be seen and most of our broadcasting colleagues had also shipped out.

The media area almost empty....

...just a French crew doing a live report.

The Queen had finished here business in Dublin. The rest of her visit would be much farther south at the Rock of Cashel and Cork.

Richard Gaisford with cameraman Simon and satellite engineer Alan would be live from there previewing her day. Grainne would be talking about her day yesterday at the big concert and meeting the Duke of Edinburgh.

Our position on the gantry.

Engineer Kelvin had everything ready for me. All that I needed to do was connect my camera and it was all systems go for broadcasting.

It was never going to be that straight forward. When all the kit was in place and cabled up Kelvin could not seen or hear anything from me.

After a series of tests we discovered that the problem was with the output from my camera. Luckily Kelvin had a camera that I could swap with to get the broadcasts done.

There had been plenty of time to get organised so there was not too much stress.

Grainne checking the newspapers before we go live.

Grainne did her broadcasts telling the Daybreak audience all about yesterday; events.

We had a very nice wrap breakfast in the plush surroundings of Dublin’s Shellbourne hotel.

Then it was time to say good-bye. Grainne went the relative short distance to her Irish home, Gary prepared to jump into his racing green Jaguar and drive to see his parents in Wexford, Kelvin wandered back to his hotel to stay for another couple of days and I got ready to head back to Edinburgh.

I was not looking forward to the trip home. My flight was with Ryanair.

The only way to pre book my kit on the supposedly cheap budget airline was for the travel company to book it as sporting and music equipment.

I would have to have all my usual hand baggage in my already fairly full hold baggage.

After I had dropped off the hire car at the return area near Terminal 2 I shoved my laden trolley to the smart shiny terminal building.

I looked up at the departure screens on the way in. There was no sign of my flight. There were details of other Ryanair flights. I was a little confused and double checked the information on the e-mails to see if there might be some obscure airport that Ryanair were using that I was not aware of. There was not.

I eventually found a screen that gave me the information I did not want to see. The flight was leaving form Terminal 1.

I heaved the trolley out of the sparkling modern building and bumped it over the roads and pavements to the older more careworn building.

I approached the check-in desk and gave the small sharp featured lady as warm a smile as I could and said, “Good morning. How are you?”

She looked at me with a neutral expression through her silver rimmed spectacles. “Where are you flying to?”

The question was delivered in a slight Eastern european accent and with no emotion.

I handed her my boarding card and passport as I said, still smiling, “Edinburgh.”

She tapped a couple of keys.

Without looking away from the screen she said, “How many bags are you checking in?”

“Five,” I told her, still maintaining as much of a good humoured smile in the face of such coolness.

“One normal bag, sporting and music equipment.” she said. The statement phrased as a question.

I nodded.

“Normal bag on the scale please.”

I put my suitcase on the scale.

“This is too heavy for normal bag. Put on first sporting equipment.”

I swapped the case for one of my kit boxes, the smallest one.

“This is too heavy for sporting equipment.”

Then she asked the question that I had been dreading.

“What kind of sports equipment to you have?”

The game had started. I was standing there with cases that could not fit golf clubs, surfboards, skis or any of the other sports kit that is often seen around airports. My hand luggage was a large broadcast camera draped over my shoulder.

I evaded the question as best I could by saying, “Oh, there is a variety of equipment in the boxes.”

She asked a few more probing questions about my bags and boxes.

Things were getting difficult. I was sure that she was about to ask me to open the boxes to show her what was in them, particularly when I eventually told her that the tripod bag contained special mini ski poles.

We were carrying on this conversation as she weighed the boxes and tagged them.

Then she told me that I would have to pay an extra €120 and take some of the bags to the outsize belt.

I gave her one more smile and said thank you.

She dealt with the payment holding the same emotionless gaze.

At the gate I was glad that I had got myself another bag to keep my normal hand baggage safe and secure and put it with the hold baggage.

As passengers were filing past the gate to board their flights two Ryanair women were checking the size of the hand baggage being taken onboard.

When I was waiting I looked out over the airport. In the distance I could see the forward party for the visit of President Obama. There were two large C17 transport aircraft and a two small helicopters as well as a few large Chinook helicopters.

Two US Airforce C17s behind the budget 'plane.

Obama's forward party. Two of everything.

A closer view of part of the presidential entourage.

When I had arrived in Dublin last week the plan was that I would stay over to cover the American president’s visit as well. However, during the week the plan had changed. Daybreak would not be bothering with his visit.

That was until I was at the airport ready to go home.

I received an e-mail to say that I would be coming back on Monday.

The flight would be a Ryanair one again. At least on this flight I would not have any kit because I would use the kit that ITN already has in Ireland.